Jury selection begins in Montgomery trial; new details emerge

Jury selection begins in Montgomery trial; new details emerge


by NewsChannel 36 Staff

NewsChannel 36 Staff

Posted on August 25, 2010 at 10:05 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 25 at 7:07 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Jury selection began Wednesday afternoon in the trial of accused cop killer Demeatrius Montgomery.

The final hurdle in pretrial motions was cleared earlier in the day when the judge ruled that Montgomery was competent to stand trial.

Wednesday morning Montgomery's attorneys withdrew their motion to revisit whether Montgomery was competent, but the judge decided to review testimony on his own and make a decision.

Judge Forrest Bridges reviewed testimony from previous hearings and said he believes Montgomery is capable of assisting his defense attorneys in the case.

Montgomery has remained silent since his arrest in 2007 and has refused to discuss the case with his attorneys. Bridges said he believes Montgomery is silent by choice.

Earlier Wednesday, prosecutors said they would not appeal Bridge's decision to ban the death penalty in Montgomery's trial.

Prosecutors said the appeal would take at least 18 months and it was likely that the judge's decision would be upheld.

Prosecutors said they consulted with the families of slain officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton, the attorney general's office and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department before making the decision.

Montgomery is accused of killing two CMPD officers in 2007.

He was facing a possible death penalty if convicted of murder, but Judge Forrest Bridges banned prosecutors from seeking the death penalty because a CMPD detective admitted discarding notes during the investigation.

"Had it become a case where he got the death penalty, there are post conviction motions, direct appeals, everybody would have wondered just why those notes were destroyed," says defense attorney Noel Tinn.

CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe said Detective Arvin Fant is now on administrative leave and is being investigated by Internal Affairs for his handling of the case. Fant could also face criminal charges, according to Monroe.

Some of the missing notes were about a jailhouse informant who fingered Octavius Elmore for the murders, instead of Demeatrius Montgomery.

Prosecutors say Elmore had been investigated and DNA on the murder weapon ruled him out as a suspect.

Bridges banned the death penalty on Tuesday, saying, "This has the potential of placing a cloud of suspicion over these proceedings. ... If we are not honest here at the courthouse, then we are wasting our time."

The families of the slain officers declined to speak after the ruling Tuesday, but Monroe spoke for them.

"The disappointment with the families and other members of this department are great," he said.